New (to us) Games in 2016

Our family receives many games as gifts throughout a year as well as buys gifts for date nights and special activities.  While we may review these games more fully another time, we thought we would try to list this year’s games in one location.  This post will be worked on by the whole family, and yet, we may still forget games that are new in this past year.

Co-operative Games: Games where you play as a team are a great way to build friendships

Pandemic.  This co-op game is about trying to cure diseases before they spread all over the world.  We really enjoy this and still play in on the beginner level (only winning sometimes).  This game is going to last a long time for us since we can continue to make it more difficult if we do start to beat the game more frequently.  Each player takes on a different role with its own special ability.  I love games where you can play again as a different character.

Shadows Over Camelot.  This co-op game has an amazing theme with each person taking on a role of a knight from the court of King Arthur. An interesting twist to this cooperative game is that there may (or may not) be a traitor in the midst. You can’t always trust what your teammates tell you because of this, so it makes each player need to carry their own weight in the game.  No one can “take control” of what everyone else should be doing because that person could be the traitor. During the game, you try to complete many thematic missions, like defeat the black night, find the Holy Grail, fight the Picts and Saxons, and more.  Each mission brings you closer to victory, or defeat.

Outfoxed – This is a great kids co-op game that even our little ones can play without a grownup. You role dice to try to reveal suspects (which are foxes dressed like people), or discover clues.  As the clues are revealed, you can eliminate suspects and narrow down the possibilities.  You must guess the correct fox before they escape the board.  I love watching the kids work through the logic of the game, and there is more strategy there than I first realized.

Party (or Large Group) Games:

Dixit Odyssey.  This game is reminiscent of Apples to Apples in that each player puts out a card based on a clue given by one player.  Instead of words, the cards contain surreal artwork.  On your turn, you want to give a clue that will allow some, but not all, players to guess your card.  Too good (or too bad) of a clue results in everyone else scoring points.  Your clue can be anything from one word to a sentence.  I gave the clue “The Silver Chair” on one turn based on my picture, and there were 3 other pictures that also fit my clue (surprisingly to me).  We played this game with 9 people and had tons of fun (Dixit Odyssey plays up to 12 people).

Code Names.  This game has 2 teams.  There are 25 words laid out on the board, with 8 or 9 words that each team must guess. One person on each team gives a one-word clue to their teammates.  The teammates have to try to guess the code names based on the clue.  While this game is for large groups, it is more of a “thinking” game than a laugh-out-loud party game (like Telestrations).  Kids can play this game, but it is best to have an adult be the clue-giver.

Sushi Go! Party.  This card game can be played with 2-8 players.  The original version of this game was always played with the same cards, but this version allows for many variations. We love the drafting (passing hands of cards to other players) mechanism used in the game as well as all the different ways to score points.  It’s a pretty quick game with only 3 rounds and plays well with a variety of numbers.  I love 7 Wonders, which also has a drafting mechanic, but Sushi Go is a simpler, faster game.

Speed Games

Tenzi.  Gideon received this game for his birthday along with the 77 variation cards.  The kids love to play all the variations of this – especially when neighbor kids or friends stop by.  Basically, each person rolls ten dice until they are all the same number.  My kids love Piratezi and Stealzi as two of their favorite variations so far.

Q-Bitz is a pattern recreation game where everyone races to complete the same pattern.  I like the 3 rounds of the game.  The first round, everyone just completes the pattern with their 16 dice.  The second round, everyone rolls their dice and then uses only the sides that are up toward the pattern completion.  On the third round, you have to memorize the pattern and then complete from memory.  We’ve enjoyed having those who aren’t as good at the game doing round 1 while the faster players do round 2 at the same time (or even one fast child takes a lap around the table before starting) just to make the game a little slower in competition.  We added in the two different solo Q-bitz sets so that the whole family could play.

Dr. Eureka is a pattern recreation game where you are trying to make your pattern out of colored balls in test tubes.  You can pour the balls back and forth between test tubes but can’t drop the balls or touch them with your hands.  Some of us are much faster at this than others, but you never know when someone in the lead might drop a ball or use their hands and be disqualified.  Of course, it is always fun to yell, “Eureka!” when you finish a pattern too.

Two-Player Games

7 Wonders Duel.  This is our favorite two-player “date night” game after the kids are in bed.  We’ve played it over 50 times so far this year and still love it.  This game is reminiscent of the original 7 Wonders but is definitely its own game. We love the different ways to win and how certain ways end the game before the end of the 3 rounds.

Memoir 44 – This 2 player war game lets you simulate different battles from WWII.  One player plays the Axis and one plays the Allies.  Then they switch sides and play again.  This way, if the battle is not even (because it was not in real life), it is still fair.

Great Games that we didn’t put into a category:

For Sale – This game has 2 phases.  In the first phase, you are using your money to purchase properties as they come up.  In the second phase, you are trying to sell your properties to get the most money.  There is an auction mechanic that I have never seen.  You flip up as many property cards as there are people playing.  Each player bids and the bid keeps going around the table.  When someone passes, they receive the lowest value property.  Bidding continues in this way with each person who drops out taking the next lowest property.  In the second phase, 4 payments are shown and each player plays a property card that they bought earlier.  The best property gets the most money.  This game is often more about guessing what your opponent with do than it is about deep strategy.

Snow Tails.  This racing game involves sled dogs.  Your sled is controlled by the 2 teams of dogs pulling the sled and a brake.  You can play cards (numbered 1 to 5) to control any of these 3.   You add the numbers on the dogs and subtract the brake to see how many spaces you move forward.  You must also subtract the 2 numbers on the dogs to see how far you move to the side.  It is simple math, but as you try to calculate the possibilities you could play to move down the track, avoid crashing, and stay under the speed limits, you end up doing a lot of mental math.  The turns in the track and the fact that you can set up different boards makes this game very interesting.

Discoveries: The Journals of Lewis and Clark.  We mistakenly were thinking this dice game was for only 2 players.  How exciting when we got it to find out it was 2-4 players.  While this game is related to Lewis and Clark Expedition, it is a completely different game.  I like the faster pace of this game (than Expedition), the different ways to score points, the artwork on the cards, and the dice mechanisms in the game.

Battle Sheep – A simple abstract strategy game with a variable board set up.  The rules are simple, but the strategy is complex.  You have a stack of pieces on the board to start the game.  You can move any number of pieces in a straight line to make a second stack.  Then you can move pieces from either of those stacks.  The game continues until no one has any legal moves.  The player whose pieces cover the most area wins.

Bounce-Off -The goal is to bounce your balls (like colored ping-pong balls) onto the board to create a pattern on a card.  You can take turns, or play a speed version where you bounce them as fast as you can.  A simple game, but it is fun.


We have been blessed with many games and have been able to use them to build friendships and strengthen family bonds. This year we also started a Bibles and Board Games series with the 10 and older boys at our church.  This is basically a youth group where we have a Bible Study and play games after.   This large game selection has helped make this Bible study a great success and we are going to move from having it once a month to twice a month (due to request from the kids and parents).


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Gift Ideas that are Fun and Educational

gift ideas that are fun and educational

Today, I sat around a table with some great friends of mine.  As our children all ran through the house and yard, we started sharing a few gift ideas with each other.  A few of the moms even ordered items I suggested on their phones as we chatted.

Even though most of you are probably already done with your Christmas shopping, I thought I’d take a minute to share a few ideas with you anyway.  These are items my children are getting for Christmas (or already received at a recent family gathering).

Most of these items come with a low price tag.  Other than the lego set, we paid less than $20 for each of these.  If they are higher priced than that, I would wait to buy them.  The high prices may be due to low stock.

In no particular order:

Kutz LEGO Chain Reaction Craft Kit.  This kit includes a fun book showing how to set up lego chain reactions as well as including lego pieces to do this.  Since I have a son who loves Rube Goldberg machines, I hope this kit sparks much more creativity in our lego building.

Awesome Lego Creations with Bricks You Already Have.  I’m excited about this book that finally just arrived at our house.  (Amazon was out of it for a week or two.)  There are step-by-step instructions to build all sorts of lego creations (animals, robots, etc) as well as “creative challenges” where they give you key lego pieces to collect but don’t spell out the directions.  I love the detailed supply lists for the projects and that we can use the legos we already own.

Klutz Star Wars Thumb Doodles Book Kit.  I was searching on Amazon for a craft book for my youngest.  This is the same style of book as this Sweet and Sparkly Fingerprint Kit Ruthie had years ago but with a Star Wars theme.  I know he is going to love it.  I remember Ruthie really getting into creative little art projects with her book, and I hope this one does the same for Gideon.

Mini Pom-Pom Pets craft kit. My daughter could use craft kits every day of the week.  I thought this one looked fun and had a few new skills in it. She has already been given Sew Mini Treats this week.

Lego Birds Model Kit.  These are display-worthy realistic birds, complete with Latin name plaques. Ruthie received these as a gift at a family gathering, and they are wonderful.  I was really impressed with this kit.  It’s apparently been discontinued by Lego but is still available for purchase.  I hope Lego makes more kits like this in the future.


And, there you have it.  Just a few educational but fun gift ideas.

Do you have gifts you are looking forward to giving this Christmas that are fun and educational?


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Animal Upon Animal Game Review

Animal Upon Animal is a dexterity game aimed at kids, but is fun for adults too.

stacking animals

I have really enjoyed this little game that the kids got for Christmas.  Animal Upon Animal has chunky wooden animals that are cute and fun to play with.  The rules for this 2-4 player game are very simple.

isaiah stacking

The game starts with an alligator on the table.  You stack your animals on top and try to get rid of all of your pieces.  If you knock over any animals, you keep 2 of them and discard any others that fell off.  At the start of your turn, you roll a die that tells you what you will do on your turn.  You might add 1 piece, add 2 pieces, place a piece next to the alligator to extend the base of the stack, or even make someone else add a piece for you.

animal upon animal

There is a nice variety of animals in the game. Each player starts with a set of 7 animals.  They are nice shapes, but don’t really fit together well, which makes them interesting to stack.

animals fell

When the kids play, they tend to stack the pieces safely.  When I play with Becki, we stack them very precariously in hopes that the other player will knock it over.  We also play that you don’t extend the base, which makes the game more difficult.  So the game is fun for kids and adults.

If you have little kids, this is a must-have game (okay, so you don’t really need any games, but this one is high on my list for kids and adults).

There is also an alternate version with different animals called Animal Upon Animal: Crest Climbers.  This one looks fun too (I am thinking we should buy it and then combine the two games).


Becki has also used this game for a review game at CC with her class of 10 year olds.  Here are a few ideas she has done:

  • Have the whole class add pieces 1 at a time to try to beat the class record before it falls over – with students answering memory work before each piece is placed.  The class record was 15 pieces.
  • Work in teams competing against each other with each team having 1/2 of the pieces and playing the game with the regular rules.  The team with the least number of pieces at the end wins.  Each team has to answer a question before getting to roll the die.
  • Work as individuals.  This worked best when some classmates were absent.  Each student had 3-4 pieces, took turns answering questions and placing pieces.  Once they ran out, they “won” the game.

Disc Golfing With Team Hogan

One of our favorite activities (especially for Elijah and me) is disc golf.  You may have heard it called Frisbee golf, but since Frisbee is a brand name, it is more properly called disc golf.

Disc golf Scene



You might not be familiar with disc golf, but it is a rapidly growing sport.  Adidas has even started to sponsor some of the top disc golfers.

Disc Golf Basket in the Fall

Where to play

A lot of parks, ski resorts, camps, and other areas have courses, and you can find them on DG Course Review.

20160306_133202_2How to play

It is basically like golf (or ball golf as we refer to it).  Throw your disc from the tee.  Go to where it landed and throw again.  Keep going until you get the disc in the basket.  The basket looks like a metal basket with chains hanging above it.  The idea is to hit the chains with the disc and have it fall into the basket.


What discs should I use?

There are lots of brands of discs, but no matter what brand you pick, you should start with a mid-range disc.  You could also buy a putter.  Most people start with a driver, but they are harder to control and can cause you to develop bad habits.  I have heard many professional disc golfers say that they wish they had not thrown drivers for their first year. If there is a local disc golf store near you, I suggest that you go there.  They can give you advice and you can compare discs before you buy.  If there is not a local store for you, here are some suggestions of discs you can get online:   Roc, Buzzz, Truth, Aviar, Warden.

Why play disc golf?

  • It is fun.
  • It is inexpensive.
  • You can continue to play it as you get older.
  • It is a great way to get outside and enjoy God’s Creation.


I hope that you, your family, and friends get out and enjoy this great sport.

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No More Snow In My Boots

Our kids often get snow in their boots.  We just had over 20 inches of snow and every time they go play, they come in with cold, wet, snowy feet.

No More Snow In My BootsThis afternoon we had a bunch of boys over to play tackle football in the snow.  Just before we went out, I had a crazy idea.  It worked so well that I wanted to share it right away to help others.


I had some left over shrink wrap from moving this fall.  I wrapped it around their pants and boot (being careful not to wrap it too tight around their legs).

I am not sure if you can tell in the picture, but I wrapped it under their boot one time too so that it wouldn’t slide up.  This turned out to be an essential step.

Tackle football in the snow was a strenuous test for this idea, and it held up well.

wrap under the boot

After 2 hours of play, all 3 boys had dry feet.

Here are a few affiliate links for the shrink wrap.

Have fun playing in the snow, and keep your feet dry.